Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

10th March
written by bob

A family vacation. That sounds good. Wait, a family vacation in Positano, Italy along the Amalfi Coast. Ahhhh yes, that sounds incredible! With Grandma, Aunt Holly, Katherine, Miss G, our au-pair Jess, and myself, all enjoyed this seaside paradise.

It was fantastic! Who wouldn’t want to vacation here?

Positano is simply an amazing place to visit!

Positano is simply an amazing place to visit!

If you have never been, we highly recommend it. We love Italy! Just make sure you are ready to do some walking AND some stair climbing! You will certainly get a workout in Positano! This past August in Italy was great; weather, food, wine, and family. This was the first vacation that we pretty much HAD to book our accommodation EARLY! We started looking in April/May for a place and at that time, there wasn’t a lot of places left. Positano is THAT popular! Our criteria for a place…large terrace, 3 bedrooms, and in town. We finally settled on Villa Balda. The terrace alone makes this place worth every penny! See for yourself, Villa Balda has everything you could need, a HUGE terrace, 3 large bedrooms each with its own full ensuite bathroom, a sitting area, dining room table, a large laundry room with washer, TV area (if you cannot live without although we never watched it), and an incredible, modern kitchen (with dishwasher). We enjoyed cooking from the kitchen (thank you Aunt Holly & Grandma) on two occasions as there are a few small markets nearby in order to take in a dinner on the terrace while enjoying the sunset view of the sea.

Arriving on a Saturday evening in Mid-August, we had pre-booked a walking tour of Positano first thing Sunday morning with Christine Cuomo owner of . A local in Positano for the past 8 years, Christine was extremely knowledgeable about the history and way of life there. She introduced us to local shop owners who have been pillars in the community for many years including Pepito’s. Incidentally, Christine married a local Vincenzo Cuomo, a qualified sommelier and they have created “Discover Wine Emotions”. You will learn about their wines (DOC & DOCG), the unbelievably flavourful dried meat, and excellent cheeses. We enjoyed this experience tremendously and would highly recommend both.

Looking for great, long-lasting clothes? Head over to Pepito’s (at Via Pasitea 39). This family run shop has been tailoring great, linen designs for the past 50+ years!

Us in Positano, Italy.  I just love Miss G's dress.

Us in Positano, Italy. I just love Miss G’s dress.

You might be thinking that linen isn’t that stylish or fashionable and to that I say, “You haven’t been to Pepito’s!” Pepito’s changed my perception. Their clothes are fantastic and the linen is superb. Both men and women can easily find something they like. Try something on and you’ll soon realize how incredibly soft their material is. While I wanted a large selection of the men’s clothes I found, restraint from breaking the bank was a constant forethought.

We spent LOTS of time at the beach. Positano beaches are covered with rentable lounge chairs and umbrellas. Prices range from 8€-20€ depending on which beach you decide to visit. There are a few beaches off the main beach where you can catch a free boat shuttle to them. Typically, each one has a restaurant right there at your finger tips on the beaches. So one day out of our seven, Katherine and I ventured out on a free boat and enjoyed a kidless day, snorkeling and soaking up the sun. The temperature of the water couldn’t have been more perfect for swimming. I even climbed a nearby cliff and jump from a couple different levels into the blue water below. It was AWESOME!

While in Positano, or Italy in general, it’s impossible not to enjoy the food and wine. Of course we ate at many different restaurants and the food was great. One place in particular, that we had an amazing dinner was a restaurant called Next2. Wow! From the moment we sat down, the restaurant’s ambience dictated the how the rest if our evening transpired.

Dining at Next2 was simply amazing!

Dining at Next2 was simply amazing!

The service was absolutely exceptional! And, the food, was simply incredible! We enjoyed a couple great bottles of Italian wine with our dinner, Classico Rosso Futura Reservi and Classico Rosso Futura. Then came dessert and it was SPECTACULAR! I’m not really one for peaches but when it comes with vanilla bean ice cream layered with thin, crisp, square pastry and topped with drizzled raspberry puree, sign me up. Delectable! If you choose to enjoy an evening at Next2, be sure to speak to Michael; he will take exceptional care of you along with the rest of his staff. On a side note, it was so good we enjoyed Next2 twice while in Positano. It’s that good. PERIOD.

Another fantastic restaurant was Hosteria il Pino in Priano a town just 10 mins up the road. Owned by Mr. Baldaserra, whom also owns Villa Balda. If you stay at his villa he will provide free transportation to/from his restaurant so you can enjoy an evening with fresh fish, pasta, a lemon shrimp risotto, and a fabulous wine, Francesca, named after his daughter and produced from the grapes harvested from the property. The first thing you notice at Hosteria is the absolutely spectacular view; one of the best on the Amalfi Coast!

Sunset view from restaurant Hosteria il Pino in Priano.

Sunset view from restaurant Hosteria il Pino in Priano.

Hosteria offers a picturesque view looking back at Positano and its nearby islands with even seeing Capri in the background. How amazing was that? In addition to incredible food, Mr. Baldaserra also produces his own olive oil which, by the way, is just as incredible as everything else you will enjoy at Hosteria il Pino. You will not be disappointed! To top our evening off (besides sipping Lemoncello), there was an amazing sunset view while we enjoyed an amazing dining experience!

One of the best days we enjoyed while on our honeymoon in Bora Bora, we renting a guy and a boat, literally. So, why not do it again while on the Amalfi Coast? Through one of the booths at the pier, we were able to set up a boating day with our own agenda touring the seaside along the coast. Our driver, Andreas, was great! A local, he highlighted the points of interest along the way including hotels, grottos, celebrity houses, amazing castles, turrets, and great swimming/snorkel spots complete with caves! We basically had the boat for 6 hrs that day and, with that, towels and drinks (coke, water, beer, Prosecco) were provided. Along the tour we stopped for lunch at a seaside restaurant that only seemed attainable from the water. Judging from the number of boats anchored in the small bay, it’s a popular place. With perfect weather that day, the private boat tour did not disappoint us. It was another incredible day!

We rounded out our vacation with a side trip to Capri, a view of Mount Vesuvius, watching the procession of the Black Madonna during the Festival of Our Lady of the Assumption complete with fireworks, and enjoying the incredible evenings on the patio at Villa Balda where numerous bottles of wine met their fate. Positano was, for us, an amazing place to visit – life is simple, the people are so friendly, and, of course, the food and wine, to die for! This was one family vacation that will not soon be forgotten.

Grazie, Positano!

Au revoir, mes amis.

8th March
written by bob

Who in their right mind would turn down an opportunity to visit the Italian wine region of Piedmont? Well, certainly not us! Especially when you have three great, long-time Canadian friends coming over to visit and partake!

This past June saw Katherine’s birthday and what better way to celebrate than with great friends enjoying incredible wine and the unbelievable tastes of the Piedmont region.

Great friends & great wine in Piedmoint Italy.

Great friends & great wine in Piedmoint Italy.

This trip also marked the first time that Katherine and I got away on a “Mommy-Daddy only” getaway since we had Miss G. It was long overdue! Mind you, it was only for three days BUT…a “kid-less” three days.

Mike, Lisa, and Sue arrived on a late Saturday afternoon to a pool party we were having with a bunch of our close “France” friends. BBQ’d food with some cold beer and rose wine along with a nice dip in the pool, makes for a fine afternoon in sunny Cannes! Mid-Monday morning we were off, driving to the town of Alba, Italy in the heart of Barolo country. Following an easy 3-hour drive, we arrived at Villa La Favorita, an amazing (and reasonably priced) Bed & Breakfast in Alba, Italy. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly staff and Roberta, the owner. Roberta was fabulous for us during our stay. Very knowledgeable of the area, she had no problems recommending restaurants for great food and booking wine tours for fine tastings. Roberta even produces her own wine with the grapes from the property!

Alba, Italy - Barolo country!

Alba, Italy – Barolo country!

In nearby Barbaresco, we took in the sights of this small, quaint town with the discovery of a tasty winery. An elderly woman offered samples of the wine she was selling. It was decent. We tasted vintages of 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2010. The best was the 2003 whereas the 2010 needs a couple more years to age before it is ready for sipping. We nicknamed this winery, “Two dogs & an Old Lady”. (To this day, I would still have to look on the labels in “la cave” to tell you the actual name of the winery!) On the way back to the car, a L’Enoteca fancied our tastebuds and we entered to taste a few more varieties from this local area.

Did I mention how well Roberta knows Alba and the Piedmont region? Like the back of her hand. She grew up here and she is very well connected in the area. When we informed her that we had a couple of wineries on our list that we wanted to tour, she took care of setting up the reservations for us. First, we toured the Pio Cesare Winery. Pio Cesare was one of the oldest wineries in the area and was located near the center of town right along the river. It was an old school winery that was started in 1881 with the cobwebs to prove it. We toured the under-city wine cellar, tunnels and rooms that age this fine wine. There were bottles that were soooooo old that I have a hard time thinking the wine in them would be any good. It wouldn’t be but the fact that they still have them was pretty cool! Large, old school casks were preparing the next batches of wine soon and one cask, in particular, had to be at least 4+ meters tall! (Decanter, please!) Our tour ended with a tasting of 2 of the Pio Cesare wines. This was a little disappointing considering they have some great wines to showcase to people. Pio Cesare came up short on this tour. We felt like we never really got a chance to know and taste their wines which was pretty unfortunate. I mean, come on, hook me with some wine and I would have wandered to the local sommelier for a few bottles just tasted. Overall, I would say the wines were pretty good but nothing to write home about.

Our next wine venture was held on-site at the Paolo Scavino Winery. This modern winery used more modern technological processes for creating their wine.

La Cave a la Paolo Scavino winery.

La Cave a la Paolo Scavino winery.

While the winery was started in 1921, they had recently finished a new building addition. We toured the new and old parts of the winery and our guide was extremely well versed in the winery’s historical roots, the processes for making each and every varietal they sell, as well as the tasting notes on each. Our tour guide took his time to explain everything and answer all our questions unlike the rushed feeling we got while at Pio Cesare. In the caves, the Paolo Scavino winery keeps samples of every wine they bottle – forever. The number of bottles kept depends in the harvest and bottles are kept in a very dimly lit cave with only a tag label to define it. And, most impressive, the caves were kept very clean! Following our tour, our guide brought us back to the tasting room where we sampled six or seven wines, including the only white wine they produce. Each wine was fantastic in it’s own way. Our favourite was the Barolo Monvigliero; so much so that we purchased 2 of these before we left. In addition we did not leave without adding a bottle (or two) of Barolo Cannubi, Barolo Bric del Fiasc, and Langhe Nebbiolo. Buying direct from the winery saved us more than a few euros. :)

Writing about visiting Italy wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how incredible the food was. Every single time we visit Italy, we NEVER come home disappointed with the food.

The L'Enoteca in Barbaresco.

The L’Enoteca in Barbaresco.

Seriously, the food is absolutely incredible! Be sure to dine at La Bovio Restaurant when in the area! From Katherine’s favourite dish of Asparsgus Black Truffle Risoto to my amazing Veal Tartare, it was all unforgettable and simply delicious! I normally wouldn’t venture to eat raw meat but I now live in Europe where this is perfectly acceptable. The tartare was out if this world! I would eat it again in a heartbeat. Though, being the animal lover that Lisa is, my dinner choice did NOT score any brownie points with her.

Italy and the region of Piedmont, we love you! A HUGE thanks goes out to Villa La Favorita – Roberta and her staff. Thank you for you incredible hospitality!

And, last but not least, thank you to our good friends – Mike, Lisa, & Sue for organizing the trip and inviting us along for the experience. We were so glad you all could come and hang with us this past summer! Let’s do it again, SOON!

Au revoir, mes amis!